Museum brings in Parkite for major fundraiser |

Museum brings in Parkite for major fundraiser

Chris Eisenberg will be in charge of raising $35 million for the Utah Museum of Natural History.

The Utah Museum of Natural History is facing a daunting task, and an old Parkite is in charge.

A plan is set for construction of a new building to house more than 1.2 million artifacts. Chris Eisenberg, a Park City high school alum, has recently been hired as the capital campaign director.

"It’s a big, exciting, important project and I’m looking forward to making it happen," Eisenberg said. "The planning has been underway for many years, I’m joining a group that has done a ton of work already There’s good momentum behind it."

Eisenberg "will work with museum staff over the next several years to complete a comprehensive fundraising campaign to raise an approximate $35 million of the $65 million needed to build the state’s new natural history museum. The new museum is scheduled to be built on University (of Utah) land, south of Red Butte Garden and Arboretum," Patti Carpenter wrote in a press release.

The current building that houses the artifacts is the problem. It has accumulated roughly 1.2 million objects in the museum since it has been running since 1969

"The current facility was built in the depression and designed to be a library," Eisenberg said. "It was never intended to be a museum; we’ve long outgrown the space. We are not able to house (the artifacts) or care for them properly and we’re only able to display less than one percent correctly.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the 36 year old.

"The new museum is an opportunity, for the first time, to create a facility to properly house and display these resources. It’s a chance to create really a world-class museum for not just residents, but really the Intermountain West."

Other museum staff members agree.

"It’s not often that a museum gets to reinvent itself," said Sarah George, executive director of the museum. "At this time, for a natural history museum to have a position that really helps us shape the future is just extraordinary. All of us feel real fortunate, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The architects working on this project have designed museums across the country from the Smithsonian to the American Natural History Museum in New York.

"I’m not joking when I say this will be a world-class facility," Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg moved to Park City from Washington, D.C., in 1976 when his mother accepted the first public relations position at the Kimball Art Center.

"Showing up in Park City as a 6-year-old, it’s like you have just landed in a summer camp that never ended," Eisenberg said. "I went from having to ride my bike around a tiny courtyard, to running all over Park City, so that was fantastic. We had the intention of staying a year and going back to Washington. We came out for a year and never left."

Eisenberg went through the Park City school system then went to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. and earned a degree in history. After he graduated he returned to Park City.

"The history firms weren’t hiring and I always had a dream of being in journalism," Eisenberg said, "so I came back to Park City and worked at The Record, it was a fantastic ski season. I covered a lot of good stories."

In 1993, Eisenberg found a place in radio at KPCW, where his mother Franci also worked.

"I was enjoying writing and they (KPCW) were looking for an additional reporter, so someone was going to pay me to learn radio," he said.

Radio is where he developed a love for participating in the community, which is also what drove him to the museum job. He helped start KCPW in Salt Lake. In 2001, he moved to Boston where his wife was finishing medical school and for two years he commuted to Salt Lake until he decided to stay and earn an MBA.

"In this capacity, Mr. Eisenberg developed and managed a variety of fundraising and membership campaigns including launching the initiative that resulted in KCPW’s Denkers Studios a state-of-art production facility and office suite at Library Square. Other career highlights include securing a variety of foundation grants, creating and implementing numerous first- in-the nation NPR special events and effectively developing partnerships with local nonprofit organizations," Carpenter wrote.

In 2005, Eisenberg moved back to Salt Lake and found the museum job. The opportunity held a familiar ring to his days in radio.

"Part of what always attracted me to radio was helping to create something special for my community, and that’s what attracted me to the museum position. This will be, in my opinion, the most significant cultural institution to open in Utah in decades. That’s exciting," Eisenberg said. "The parallel," he said, "is I’ve spent a career working for institutions that serve the community, this is really an extension of that. It’s a way to promote a big, fun, exciting community service."

The other thing that attracted him to the job, he said, "is the reputation of the museum and the people who are here. Those opportunities don’t come a long very often."

The admiration goes both ways.

"Chris has done a remarkable thing in establishing KCPW in Salt Lake," George said, "We at the museum have worked with him for years, and I’ve always had an admiration for his work.

"(Eisenberg) had a lot of integrity and thought it would be fun. We think he had had an affinity for it and it had an affinity for him, it’s a great fit."

When asked about Eisenberg’s qualities, George had to limit her words.

"I’m trying to curb the number of adjectives," she said. "Enthusiasm, a real understanding of the community and the place this has for its potential in the future. A great deal of integrity and vision for the museum as well."

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